16 Common Localization Mistakes & Myths to Avoid
Localization seems quite simple and easy. Just do translations, make some cultural tweaks to your brand, and you are good to go in any foreign market. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it may sound. This is why many localization projects failed to achieve the desired outcomes. From concept to final deliverable, you will come across several challenges throughout your localization project management.
Lack of information and an inability to see the broader picture lead to major localization cultural mistakes and pitfalls that you better avoid for successful localization project management. Many multinational tycoons have also made some major mistakes in their localization strategy. That is why there is a need to shed light on some serious mistakes in localization. Because if you think of your business going global, you do not want to repeat the same mistakes that can backlash your precious business idea. In this article, we’ll talk about the most common localization mistakes that result in delays, quality gaps, ineffective processes, and even project failures. Read this blog till the end, so you better know what to avoid to have a smooth localization journey that will bring the expected results.
Common Localization Mistakes
Here are some major localization mistakes categorized into five groups, so you will know in which areas the problems are more likely to arise and what to do to avoid and mitigate the mistakes.
a) Conceptual Mistakes
1. Unidentified Goals
If you didn’t get your localization goals right, you have already begun the vicious cycle of pitfalls in your project all along. You must always start with the end in mind; otherwise, there will be a lack of clarity and things will soon become chaotic. Most brands don’t know what they want to achieve out of their localization project, and they remain misdirected throughout their localization journey. Whether you have identified your localization goals or not, it is going to have a huge influence on your project. You must start by writing down clear and specific goals for your localization project. There will be more chances that you will remain on track and that your localization efforts will be aligned with your goals.
2. Targeting Wrong Markets
This is a common mistake made by brands when they think they can get into any marketplace with good localization. It is very wrong because not every market has potential for your brand. Choosing the wrong markets will make your hard work go to waste. Not because your product is not good enough or your localization strategy is ineffective; it only happens because market demands are not resonating with your brand. So, you better do extensive research on markets to know whether they have potential for your brand or not.
3. Poor Localization Strategy
Your overall localization project’s success highly depends on your localization strategy. The approach and methods you use to carry out your localization process have a lot to do with the success and failure of your project. If your localization strategy is not good enough, your whole project will suffer. It is important to develop a robust localization strategy; it will help you stay focused on your mission. Moreover, a localization strategy not only provides you with the roadmap of your project but also lets you brainstorm on all the possible risks and problems likely to occur during the execution of your project.
b) Managerial Mistakes
4. Slow Workflows
Your localization project manager must ensure an optimized workflow so that everything goes smoothly. Slow and ineffective workflows are one of the major managerial pitfalls a localization project may face. Slow and sluggish localization workflows make things time-consuming, and it becomes more difficult to meet deadlines and complete the localization project on time. One of the major reasons behind slow workflow is manual operations management and file handling. Relying on traditional project management and not having advanced workflow management tools in place slows down project execution and increases the chances of manual errors and mistakes.
5. Resisting Outsourcing
Does your project manager resist outsourcing? If yes, this resilience to change will make both the project and employees suffer. As your business grows, the need for translations and other localization operations may also increase. So, here is when the problem starts. Project managers keep loading work on their in-house employees instead of outsourcing the processes. Heavy workloads are not just frustrating for the employee but also badly impact their performance and productivity.
The project managers need to realize the need for outsourcing as soon as possible. It might cost some money, but it will allow you to effectively manage the increasing work demand without overloading your employees.
6. Lack of Innovation
Evolving with time and improving with experience is significant for successfully carrying out the localization process. However, it happens so rarely. Project managers don’t think outside the box to generate new ideas to solve their problems.
Edward de Bono, one of the greatest thinkers of all time, once said, “If all you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.” This is so true because we always have those conventional answers to solve a problem, and we keep repeating cliched methods. Lack of innovation and lateral thinking hinders your localization project from reaching its full potential.
c) Translation Mistakes
7. Manual Translation Management
As we know, translation is one of the most important aspects of a localization project, and it is important to keep the translation process optimized and error-free. First things first, to ensure high-quality and quick translations, you must enhance the translation management process and improve the workflow. But, you can’t achieve it with manual translation management. Traditional translation management processes are not just time-consuming but also increase the chances of errors in the translations.
A lot of time is wasted on sending excessive emails to localization teams and transferring the translation files back and forth. To cope with the present translation needs, you have to come up with advanced translation management solutions. You can use a professional TMS tool for the purpose of streamlining the translation workflow and optimizing the overall localization process. It will help you reduce employee workload and finish the translations in the quickest turnaround time.
8. Skipping the Glossaries
Skipping translation glossaries can lead to inconsistent translations, and your brand voice will get lost. So, every translation will generate a version of the translation that might not match with other translations. It will make your brand look shady and non-credible. Your brand glossaries contain your brand terminologies, definitions, and other guidelines that should be followed throughout the translation generation process. Glossaries help the professional translator gain a better understanding of your brand and generate relevant translations.
You can also add these glossaries to your TMS as brand guidelines. Whether you are an LSP or a global business, you must provide glossaries to translators to ensure a consistent brand voice and style globally. It would help you build a trustworthy brand image internationally.
9. Cultural Gaps
If your translations are not culture-appropriate, you have already lost the actual purpose of localization. The translation should not be just about the swapping of words from one language to another; it goes far beyond that. When your translation has cultural gaps, you can’t communicate with your target customers effectively. The purpose of translation is not to make the customers understand your message but to make them resonate with your brand. It is only possible when your translations are generated keeping in mind the cultural and social intricacies of the particular region that you are targeting. To ensure that your translations are culturally appropriate, you better hire native or near-native translators who don’t just know the language but are also aware of the culture and psychology of people. Your translators must know the fears and fascinations of audiences to depict your brand in the best way possible.
10. Style and Tone
Translation software or engines can translate a text into another language, but they may overlook style and tone and create inconsistent translations. For instance, if you are conveying a message in a very generic tone about any emergency, with the use of specific local jargon accordingly, it might not give a clear message to the natives of another region. Likewise, if you are using a harsh tone even for weather forecasting, then you are making a mountain out of a molehill. In some cases, this mistake has led many countries’ relations into an awkward situation.
d) Design Mistakes
11. Allowing No Text Expansion
Disproportionate text is a major design blunder when you do design localization of your website or app. Such mistakes are common when you have a website localized for multiple regions and every region shows textual content in multiple languages. One thing to consider in this scenario is that some languages take up less space than the original text to translate the same message. It happens because of the difference in language and script. For instance, when you translate “Buy Now” into the Irish language, it becomes “Ceannaigh Anois.” So the new text might not fit in the button space allocated to write “buy now”. To avoid this, you must create an adjustable interface that will be automatically modified for different languages. Otherwise, it will create a lot of mess, and everything will look out of proportion on your website.
12. Not Localizing Graphics
Do you know that around 17.24% of websites don’t bother to localize their graphics and images? This is what hinders them from fulfilling their branding goals in foreign markets. Because every country has its own culture and social norms, most of your website and app graphics need to be localized. There are aspects of graphic localization that you must keep in mind. First is the localization of the graphic content in a way that is befitting the culture and interests of your audiences.
Second, the embedded text in graphics should be translated into the local language. This will enhance the searchability of your graphics on search engines. It may be more time-consuming to extract the text from images, translate it, and reinsert it back into graphics.
13. Choosing Wrong Colors
Using the wrong colors in images and designs can be a problem, as every region perceives different colors according to their customs and teachings. For instance, unlike many other countries, pink is the color of men in Japan, not of women. Likewise, the red color conveys the fertility message in India, but in Africa, this very red color is the mourning symbol. So, graphics in the localization can cause serious issues, and localization service providers should take these little details into consideration while localizing your content.
e) Technical Mistakes
14. Hardcoded Elements
You must build your website, app, or software keeping in mind your future localization goals from the very beginning. Hardcoding your elements could make your localization processes very time-consuming and hectic. For example, every country has its own time format; some use 12-hour clocks and others use 24-hour clocks. Hardcoding one format in your code would make the localization very difficult. You have to write your code from scratch whenever you want to target a new region. To avoid this hassle, you should build your website or software using Unicode.
The developers that you will hire should have good experience in writing Unicode. This way, you will only use one version of a website or app and localize it directly without any need to write any additional code. So, you better never hard code your time, date, numbers, units, and other formats; it will keep the localization process simple and easy.
15. Ineffective Tools
You have identified your goals, built a strong localization strategy, and hired the best team, but still, your localization is not showing any results. There are likely chances that your tools are not effective enough to support the localization needs. Not having the right tools or upgrading the existing tools can be a major barrier to your localization project’s success. Relying on outdated tools and old methods can reduce your project’s effectiveness and agility. You must get advanced tools for translation management, communication, quality assurance, data security, and user management.
For instance, your TMS tool must include reliable translation memory, QA, and glossary features to ensure high-quality and consistent translations. Otherwise, it will be the other way around. So, you better get your hands on the right tools to keep your localization operations optimized.
16. Ignoring Local Regulations
Now, this mistake is made by most businesses when they completely overlook local regulations. It not only leads to localization project failure but also results in legal action and financial penalties for the company. For instance, if you want to take your brand to the Middle Eastern region, you must be aware of the legal regulations to avoid doing anything unlawful or offensive. Because it is illegal to depict women in Western clothes in the Middle East, you have to be careful while using any female in your advertisements. Portraying women in modern clothes without a hijab is like calling for trouble. It is not just offensive but also calls for legal action to be taken against your company, or even worse, you might not be able to operate anymore in the region.
Bursting Localization Myths
Not everything you hear about brand localization is a fact. Most of the information is just a perception that eventually turns out to be a popular myth. Here are some common localization myths you need to know:
- Localization and translation are identical: No, they are not; localization is a broader term, and translation is just an aspect of localization.
- Save money with Google Translate: Definitely not for your brand copies and marketing purposes. Hiring professional translators and buying AI-powered paid tools is the way to go.
- English brands don’t need localization: Well, you better get your facts right. 75% of the world’s population can’t speak English. English-speaking brands do need localization to increase their global market share.
- Bilinguals are ideal for translations: Just because someone can speak two languages doesn’t make them a good translator. Translators are experienced and qualified individuals who understand the intricacies of both source and target languages.
- TMS tools are not essential: Yes, they are. If you are serious about your business expansion, you must have a reliable TMS in your toolkit.
This article has just given you a factual insight into localization project management by mentioning all possible mistakes and busting commonly known myths. Localization is a tough job, indeed. You must equip yourself with the right tools, resources, and localization team. And most importantly, you better not make the mistakes mentioned in this article for an effective and smoother execution of your localization project. Avoiding these mistakes would help you prevent delays, reduce repetitive tasks and edits, and maximize project efficiency.